If you're feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. I am here to help. Each month, I'll send you some information to try to make your journey a little more manageable…
Fear of Cancer Treatment
Fear is something many people experience after a cancer diagnosis. It is natural to be fearful about undergoing cancer treatment, but it doesn’t mean you have to let the fear take over. When you become overwhelmed by your fears, it can prevent you from coping with cancer treatment and living your life fully. The management of fear requires first acknowledgment of, and then moving through, the fears.
Facing Your Fears
One of the most common fears people with cancer experience is a fear of the unknown. You may be fearful of how the treatments will make you feel and if you will be in pain. Other common fears you may experience include fear of death, fear of separation from loved ones, and fear of becoming dependent on others. These feelings are all normal.
When facing cancer treatment, the following questions may produce fear:
- What is going to happen to me?
- What side effects will I experience?
- Will I be in a lot of pain?
- Will I lose my independence?
- What will happen to my loved ones if I’m not around?
- Will I be able to afford treatment?
- What if the cancer comes back?
Moving Through Fear
Finding ways to face and overcome fear of cancer treatment can be beneficial in many ways. It can help you feel more in control at a time when life may feel out of control. It can help clear your mind so you can make good decisions for yourself. It can help you build confidence to face the challenges ahead. With the right kind of help and coping strategies, you can move through your fears and empower yourself to fight cancer.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS REPORT ANY FEARS ABOUT CANCER TREATMENT TO YOUR PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY.
Tips for Overcoming Fear of Cancer Treatment
- Accept your fears. It is normal to be fearful when facing cancer treatment. There is no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed about being afraid. Try to acknowledge and honor your fears and then find ways to work through them. Don’t let fear stand in the way of getting the treatment you need.
- Evaluate the source of your fears. It may help to identify what triggers your fear. Make a list of the things you fear about cancer and/or its treatment. When you look at what you fear on paper, it may help you come up with solutions. Share the list with your healthcare team, who can clear up some of your unanswered questions and concerns.
- Try not to generalize. Cancer affects each person differently. A statistic can’t tell you what’s going to happen in your situation. Even the same type of cancer can grow at different rates and respond differently to the same treatments. And, just because you read about a potential side effect of treatment doesn’t mean you will experience it.
- Educate yourself. Sometimes what people fear most about cancer treatment is the unknown. It may help to educate yourself about the cancer type you have, its stage, and your treatment options so you know what to expect. Also, many therapies today are able to better target cancer cells, while reducing side effects and improving quality of life. You may find that the more you know, the more confident you will feel about your choices, and fear often subsides.
- Decide how you want to receive care. Being comfortable with and confident in your treatment can help reduce fear. Choose a provider that suits you best. You may seek a facility that practices integrative medicine, offering complementary therapies alongside conventional treatments to enhance quality of life during treatment. If so, make sure coordination of care is being handled appropriately, with everyone working as a team.
- Be open with your healthcare team. A good relationship with your healthcare team can help you feel more comfortable and confident throughout your cancer journey. Some people feel less fearful when they know all of the details. Others find all the information to be overwhelming. Decide how much or how little information you want to know, and let your doctor know. You can overcome your fears and become empowered to fight when you feel like you have a team fighting with you.
- Take an active role. Becoming actively involved in the treatment process may give you a greater sense of control and help you feel more confident and less fearful as you begin treatment. Ask your healthcare team questions about what to expect during treatment. If your doctor uses medical terms you don’t understand, ask him or her to explain it in another way. Whenever possible, bring someone with you to appointments. They can think of questions you may not have thought to ask and take notes for you.
- Build a support system. It’s easier to face fear when you don’t feel alone. Staying connected with others can be empowering in itself. Share your fears with family, friends, other cancer survivors, a spiritual leader, etc. Remember that you aren’t the only one who may be fearful during this time. Your loved ones will likely have their own fears, which they may hide to avoid upsetting you. By talking about your fears together, you can all gain strength from each other.
- Nurture your emotional and spiritual well-being. Psychological care is normal and necessary, and is an integral part of cancer care. Ask your doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc. In addition to private counseling, support groups can help you talk about your fears and learn from others who have been where you are now. In addition, participation in spiritual and/or religious activities can be a source of strength and help you feel more hopeful.
- Explore mind-body therapies. Mind-body therapies, such as relaxation techniques, guided imagery, deep breathing, stress management, journaling, meditation, massage, and Reiki, can all help to reduce fear. Deep breathing can help slow down the body’s response to scary thoughts. Creative outlets, such as drawing, painting, music, and poetry can help relieve stress and promote peace of mind.
- Join the cancer cause. Many people with cancer feel more empowered and less fearful when they get involved in the fight against cancer. You may decide to volunteer for fundraising events with your local cancer society, participate in cancer walks, and/or become a cancer advocate by supporting a cause, idea, or policy.
- Keep busy. With places to go and things to do, you will feel more productive and you'll get your mind off cancer. The night before treatment, do something pleasurable, such as watching a movie or taking a walk. During treatment, use simple distractions (if possible), such as listening to a relaxation tape or soft music, drawing, knitting, reading, or doing crossword puzzles.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and exercising (when recommended by your doctor) can be energizing and empowering. Talk with your doctor about making healthy lifestyle choices. A physical therapist can help develop a personalized exercise plan for you. A naturopathic clinician can recommend nutritional supplements, and a dietitian can help develop a meal plan that is right for you.
- Face forward. Facing and overcoming your fears can be very challenging. However, if you are able to accept the situation and focus on what you can change (not on what you can’t change), it will help you move forward. Try to replace your fearful feelings with ones of optimism and empowerment so you can begin to move past fear and focus on living life to the fullest.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER REGARDING YOUR FEARS ABOUT CANCER TREATMENT.
About Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is a network of cancer hospitals unlike any other.
CTCA doctors specialize in treating many forms of cancer, including complex and advanced cases. They work as a team, alongside cancer experts across multiple disciplines, to keep patients strong in body, mind and spirit.
CTCA care team members listen to patients and provide clear, well-defined choices. They work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan based on each patient’s unique diagnosis and needs.
Using the latest technologies and advanced tools to fight cancer, our cancer experts provide a powerful combination of treatments. While our oncologists help patients fight cancer, other clinicians provide supportive therapies to help patients tolerate treatment, manage side effects, and enjoy a better quality of life.
Visit the full website to learn more.